Paper: The Retreat of the State and the Emergence of Grassroots Movements in Post-Disaster Lebanon

Paper details

Paper authors Mohammad Alhamawi
In panel on In the "Too-Hard" basket: Locally-led response in complex and protracted settings
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Often referred to as one of the largest explosions in history, the 2020 explosion at Beirut Port ravaged through the city and left the immediate vicinity in ruins. It was devastating to say the least, with more than 200 dead, 6,500 injured, and 300,000 homeless or displaced. Of the most affected areas, the neighbourhoods around the Port stand out for their popular mobilisation of resources to respond to and, to a certain extent, recover from the explosion. The state has long been paralysed prior to 2020, which had forced the city’s residents to establish their own networks of solidarity and assistance. The 2020 Beirut Port Blast particularly offers an interesting case of near-total popular mobilisation to respond to this man-made disaster in the absence of a withering Lebanese state.

Given the scant literature on this topic, this paper will examine the post-disaster response space in Beirut, Lebanon following the 2020 Beirut Blast through an analysis of grassroots, community-level action in the surrounding neighbourhoods. It aims to understand, conceptualise, and highlight ‘how life went on’ without the state. It finds that, in the absence of the state, the local communities have stepped in to relieve and recover on their own through grassroots networks of solidarity that served as the city’s ‘disaster response.’